Panel to push for faster internet speeds in WV

Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette-Mail Staff Writer

The new chairman of a governor-appointed panel wants to set a lofty goal for broadband speeds in West Virginia: Make gigabit internet service available statewide.

That’s 100 times faster than average broadband speeds in the Mountain State. Some cities, like Chattanooga, Tennessee, offer access to gigabit internet service, but not entire states.

“Our focus, our achievement level should be 1 gig,” said Rob Hinton, chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council. “If we don’t get to 1 gig statewide, whether it’s wire line or fiber … we’re going to be behind, as a state. A lot of people say it’s impossible, but nothing’s impossible.”

Other council members argued that Hinton’s gigabit standard probably is setting the bar too high — and might put off internet providers struggling to offer 10 megabits-per-second (mbps) service in rural areas.

“I applaud your thought, but I think, at this point, it’s a very unrealistic goal,” said council member Robert Cole, adding that the 1-gigabit service would require extensive excavation work to install large high-speed fiber lines. “If we scare [internet providers] off, they’re going to put up a wall. Getting their cooperation is key.”

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